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Bridesmaid dresses revisited

By By Karan Ireland
Staff writer
Photo courtesy Megan Dailey When Charleston resident Jennifer Kayrouz got married in 2009, she didn't realize she was at the forefront of a bridal fashion trend that's proving to be wildly popular with bridesmaids: she chose the color, and let each maid choose the style that worked best for her.
Courtesy of Ann Taylor Retailers like Ann Taylor have attracted attention for budget-friendly bridesmaids dresses that can easily be worn for other, non-bridal occasions.
Lola Elise, a Colorado-based photographer, and Rae Ann Wheele, owner of Denver-area Bella Bridesmaid, set out to show what happens when bridesmaids added their own personalities to the dresses."> Photo courtesy Lola Elise|Mansurovs Photography Lola Elise, a Colorado-based photographer, and Rae Ann Wheele, owner of Denver-area Bella Bridesmaid, set out to show what happens when bridesmaids added their own personalities to the dresses.
Courtesy of Ann Taylor From the Ann Taylor Weddings 2014 collection.
Courtesy of Ann Taylor From the Ann Taylor 2014 Weddings collection.
Courtesy of J. Crew From the J. Crew collection of bridesmaid and party dresses.
Courtesy of J. Crew From the J. Crew collection of bridesmaid and party dresses.

“Will you be my bridesmaid?”

For some women, these are among the most frightening words in the English language.

The time, the money, thedress!

Uncomfortable speeches and busy pre-wedding schedules aren’t nearly as scary as the thought of giant taffeta bows and dyed-to-match shoes.

But, good news for potential maids and matrons here in West Virginia and elsewhere — the bridesmaid dress has come a long way and there’s a good chance that it really can be worn again!

New trends in wedding apparel mean more flexibility for bridesmaids and they are happier for it.

One reason for the move away from tradition is the entry of several women’s wear retailers into the bridal market. Bridal boutiques are no longer the only options for brides in terms of gowns or attendant wear. This has been a boon to bridesmaids.

Perhaps the most popular of these lines is J. Crew, whose bridal apparel has become an instant classic.

Ann Taylor has also made a splash with its reasonably priced collection of they-don’t-scream-bridesmaid dresses.

Fit is an important thing to notice with some of these popular lines.

Charleston designer and dressmaker Julie Wirts cautions, “The J. Crew dresses are great — women love them. But, with their built in bras and lined skirts, they can be expensive to alter. They work the best when you can get a good fit off-the-rack.”

Another way that many modern brides have opted to give their maids more creative control of their wedding wear is by selecting one unifying element, such as color or fabric, and leaving the actual dress up to the girls.

Jennifer Kayrouz of Charleston did just that for her wedding.

“I told my six bridesmaids to wear a chocolate brown dress of their choosing,” she said.

“I got married outside in late September. Only two people had to buy a dress. The other four had one already. They were different cuts and length — but looked great.”

Designers are also offering wedding separates.

Wirts, owner of The Dressmaker’s Closet, is working on a line of tops and skirts for attendants.

Her designs include white blouses, cashmere sweaters, and skirts in a variety of cuts to flatter different body types. The same top that worked with a silk skirt for a wedding in June takes on a whole new look paired with velvet skinny pants for the holidays.

There are so many different options for women in today’s bridal parties, but tradition is still strong when it comes to weddings and wedding apparel.

If you’re getting ready to proceed down the aisle of a friend’s wedding dressed in a traditional bridesmaid’s dress, don’t fret!

You may be able to repurpose it after the event and wear it out for a night on the town.

Removing spaghetti straps, adding a sash, having a skirt shortened, or adding some edgy accessories are all ways to squeeze extra life out of a lovely, but distinctly ceremonial dress.

If all else fails, Pinterest has some great ideas for quilts and picture frames made out of those dresses that just couldn’t be salvaged!


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